Former Stella Sola chef Justin Basye has left the Pappas organization to become the executive chef of Museum Park Cafe. The upcoming restaurant from Balcor Hospitality owner Christopher Balat is designed to be a neighborhood restaurant for the Museum District. (The Chronicle first reported Basye's move.)
Back in January, Balat told CultureMap he wanted it to serve "really well-done dishes that the neighborhood can be proud of." Hiring Basye is a big step towards achieving that goal.
"I always appreciated Justin's food," Balat tells CultureMap. "I'll never forget the dishes he made (at Stella Sola)."
Basye has been with the Pappas R&D department since December 2011. He left Italian-inspired Stella Sola in April of that year. In between, he collaborated with former Underbelly butcher Peter Jahnke on the highly regarded Les Sauvages pop-up dinners that featured a variety of guest chefs such as Foreign & Domestic's Ned Elliott, then-Tony's chef Grant Gordon and others.
"I always appreciated Justin's food. I'll never forget the dishes he made (at Stella Sola)."
Even as he's been working away from the public, Basye said he's been approached with offers to get back in a restaurant. "The opportunity at Pappas was great . . . but there were things about being in my own kitchen I missed," Basye says. When informal conversations with Balat and Balcor culinary director Chris Leung about joining the team became serious, Basye says he realized "it was an opportunity I didn't want to miss."
The menu will be "approachable, modern American food . . . dictated by the seasons and sustainable methods (that) showcases traditional dishes," Basye says. While he isn't ready to discuss specific menu items, he promises a "pretty serious pasta program."
As for the relationship between executive chef and culinary director, Basye says he and Leung "will work hand in hand . . . We'll work on every dish together." Balat adds that he sees Leung's role and his as managing director as more about oversight and making sure that dishes are faithful to the restaurant's overall concept. At all current (and future) Balcor restaurants, "the executive chef has final say."
Balat estimates that Museum Park Cafe will open in mid-June. Preceding it in May will be a coffee shop and cafe called Bosta Coffee & Wine that will serve locally roasted Greenway Coffee. A Korean fried chicken restaurant named Dak & Dop (chicken and rice in Korean) will follow later this year.
Together, the concepts bring together a lot of talent for a growing neighborhood with only limited dining options. Looks like that's about to change.